Nov 5, 2017

The rain check

It’s a grey, dark and rainy Sunday here at the end of the road in my northern Swedish village, as well as in Seattle. Actually more like a moist drizzle here, and my guess is Seattle is the same.

I remember that day at the gym in Umeå back in winter 1993. The radio was on and there was a report about something in Seattle, probably the music scene. It caught my ear as we were only months from our first trip to that foreign territory I didn’t know anything about. And the reporter asked: it rains a lot in Seattle, how do you cope?

So it rains a lot in Seattle? Ouch. That’s not good news…

A few weeks ago the last brick-and-mortar umbrella store in Seattle closed. No one uses an umbrella in Seattle. If you happen to catch a human being in Seattle with an umbrella, it’s a visitor.  

And do you know in which city in the US the most sunglasses are purchased? Seattle. Jodell Egbert who's the owner of the last bumbershoot store Bella Umbrella in Pike Place Market will move her business to… New Orleans.

As a Seattle native Jodell Egbert should have known umbrellas wouldn’t be a successful business concept in Seattle. But she learned the dying art of umbrella making after she fell in love with a box of vintage ones she bought for her wedding 15 years ago. And she was persistent she would make Seattleites change their minds when laying eyes on her beautiful creations. How did that go? Not so good.

Because here is the thing. The rain is like blood in their veins to Seattleites. They don’t even notice it. Seattleites, Puget Sound, cedar and rain is like one big harmonies organism, only intruded ny traffic. I used to joke with my friends saying they were like poikilothermic animals. Didn’t do a big thing about the seasons, wearing pretty much the same clothes all year round and perceiving being wet as a natural state of mind. Unlike Swedes who live and breath their seasons. And shunning rain as something extremely uncomfortable. 

Umbrellas in Seattle are for wimps. Visitors. Tourists. To live your Seattle life without an umbrella is a regional pride. Or more correct, it’s something you don’t even consider. You don’t own one. They are only in the way. At your house and in your hand. Your hand is for the latte. 

During that first Seattle stay of mine in 1993, Swedish National Television wanted me to do a report about the fashion in Seattle. I looked around. Couldn’t find any fashion. Only grey and beige flanells over worn out jeans. I didn’t know then about Grunge. What about hair dos? Nope. Couldn’t see any. Just  hair. It’s very hard to maintain a hair do in the rain not protecting it with an umbrella. So, natural would be the look. Hair dos are for out-of-towners.

To the defense of the Seattle stance and reluctance when it comes to umbrellas you should know that the Seattle rain for the most part comes as a misty drizzle. Often continuing through the day. The typical rain originates from lower, flat stratus clouds and not from the dense, high cumulonimbus clouds associated with heavy precipitation. That’s why the misty nature of the raindrops. And for those drops umbrellas are an overkill, I have to agree.

By the way, the heavy rain flooding The Killing and the Grey’s Anatomy ER entrance is nothing but bad mouthing the Seattle weather! It’s very rare, I’ve only experienced that kind of rain once, an otherwise lovely december week in 1998. And yes, for that I used an umbrella!

So what’s with the sun glasses? Well, the only time I hear Seattleites complain about the weather is when the sun is out too many days in a row and the temperatures rise. When will we have som relief, they say, and reach for their shades. The summers after 2010 have all been dry and sunny with a dry streak record of 55 consecutive days 2017. It was the longest dry streak in more than six decades, so I am sure Seattle is enjoying the fall rains coming in.

But Jodell Egbert of Bella Umbrella in Pike Place Market has packed up her gorgeous hand made umbrellas for the more bumbershoot friendly New Orleans. “Every day somebody would come in and tell me it was stupid to have an umbrella store in Seattle because Seattleites don’t use umbrellas,” Egbert said. “It made me feel bad.” So, she gives Seattle a rain check until further notice.

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